Chief executive election bill clears first hurdle in marathon debate

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 March, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 March, 2011, 12:00am

The Legislative Council last night cleared the first hurdle to finalising the 2012 electoral reform package.

After three hours of debate, lawmakers voted 35 to 9 in the second reading of the chief executive election bill. They will continue scrutinising and vote on the amendments tabled by lawmakers and officials today.

But some amendments tabled by Civic Party legislator Margaret Ng Ngoi-yee were already voted down.

These include a cap on the number of nominations a chief-executive candidate can get, as well as the number of seats allocated to each sector in the Election Committee and how to draw up the electorate.

Lawmakers will vote on a total of 33 amendments leading to more than 100 changes to the laws on chief executive and Legco elections.

According to the reform plan passed in June, the membership of the Election Committee to return the chief executive will be increased from 800 to 1,200.

Lawmakers passed an amendment proposed by the government to discard the voting right of foreign consulates - dozens of whom were allowed to vote in the Election Committee before.

Another government amendment which stipulates that the elected candidate for chief executive should get support from more than half - or at least 601 votes - of the total number of Election Committee members, was also passed. Before, a candidate would be elected with more than half of the valid votes.

Tam Yiu-chung, chairman of the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong, said the party's lawmakers would vote against most of the legislators' amendments because they believed the changes were 'unnecessary and unsuitable'.

Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said the reform package and government-proposed amendments had enhanced the democratic elements in the election bill.

'The proposed package for the 2012 elections can roll forward democratic development for Hong Kong and will be conducive to the city's steady transition to universal suffrage,' Lam said.

The debate will continue today on amendments for Legco elections - in which the number of seats will rise by 10 to 70. Five of the new seats, known as 'super lawmakers', would be in the district councils functional constituency, where 3.2 million people would be eligible to vote.

Lawmakers will also vote on an amendment by Democrat Emily Lau Wai-hing to lower the nomination threshold for the five new district council functional constituency seats from 15 to 10; and an amendment by Federation of Trade Unions legislator Wong Kwok-hing to allow former district councillors to contest these.